Mean Things God Doesn't Do - Part 1

When Katrina flooded New Orleans back in 2005, Pat Robertson promptly announced the reason. It was God. God did it, he declared, because of the city's abortions and homosexuals. This made New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin mad...hopping mad, and he jumped in to set the record straight. God did not destroy New Orleans because of abortions and homosexuals, he stormed.

He destroyed it because of the war in Iraq and disunity among its black residents.

No one thinks, apparently, that locating a coastal city below sea level yet in the path of hurricanes might have anything to do with it. No! It's all God. God destroyed that city for....well....pick your reason. But whatever reason you pick, have no doubt that God did it. Even insurance companies have long acquiesced to the language; natural disasters, they tell us in their policies, are "acts of God," whereas every non-religious person says, quite sensibly, if a bit crudely, that "shit happens." Which is it - "acts of God" or "shit happens"? Moreover, if such calamities are not really caused by God, does not church instruction that they are amount to monstrous slander against him?

Now, I recently came across a religious blogger who says he can accept God smiting New Orleans, or anywhere else, because "God is Sovereign" and thus can do whatever he wants! I swear, it's a wonder we're not all atheists! You don't think it might be nice for God to warn the "non-guilty" so they can clear out before the smiting starts?  And what's so especially wicked about New Orleans? People aren't creampuffs up here in Rochester either, I assure you - why single out Louisiana folk? Atheists may say rotten things about God, but the really nasty things come from those who claim to be his friends! They don't do it on purpose, of course, but they buy into longstanding doctrines - nonsensical and unscriptural doctrines- that unfailingly paint them into moral corners. With friends like these, so the saying goes, who needs enemies?

There is an explanation for disasters. The churches don't offer it, but it is this: If you've voted the Republicans into power, you can't be upset that Democrat policies aren't being carried out (or vice-versa). Everyone knows that. And with only minimal exaggeration, the same reasoning can be applied to spiritual matters. There is a "party" that offers control over natural forces. That party is God's Kingdom, as in "thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matt 6:10) Alas, last time there was an "election" back in Genesis days, God's rulership was rejected in favor of human rulership - rulership which can't control the weather or the economy or health or peace or very much else.

Control of natural forces? An attribute of God's Kingdom? Why not? Consider the account at Mark 4:37-41:

And on that day, when evening had fallen, he [Jesus] said to them: “Let us cross to the other shore.” So, after they had dismissed the crowd, they took him in the boat, just as he was, and there were other boats with him. Now a great violent windstorm broke out, and the waves kept dashing into the boat, so that the boat was close to being swamped. But he was in the stern, sleeping upon a pillow. So they woke him up and said to him: “Teacher, do you not care that we are about to perish?” With that he roused himself and rebuked the wind and said to the sea: “Hush! Be quiet!” And the wind abated, and a great calm set in. So he said to them: “Why are you fainthearted? Do you not yet have any faith?” But they felt an unusual fear, and they would say to one another: “Who really is this, because even the wind and the sea obey him?” 

Rejecting God's right to rule, as was done in Eden at man's start, has had long-standing, terrible consequences. God has responded by allowing humans to make good on their claim that they can govern themselves without him. He's set aside a block of time during which humans can devise schemes of government, harness the power of science, improvise their own economies, philosophies, moralities, and so forth. When that time runs out, and all such schemes have fallen flat, (aren't they doing that now?) God brings about his own rulership, the same rulership he purposed from the start but which he allowed to be briefly diverted so that humans might carry out their experiment of self-rule. That, in a nutshell, is the Bible's explanation for present abysmal conditions, as outlined here and (for atheists) here.

It's an explanation that makes splendid sense, but accepting it means rejecting some cherished church beliefs, such as the dogma that earth is but a temporary home upon which people prove their fitness for their ultimate destiny in heaven or hell. Unwilling to part with such unscriptural notions, what is there left to church teachers other than to defend each and every natural disaster as part of God's plan? Thus, Katrina, 911, tsunami 2004, earthquake after earthquake - tragedies that haphazardly ruin rich and poor, good and bad, old and young, all such calamities are manifestations of God's will, say his friends! He's Sovereign. He can do what he wants. Don't try to figure it out. His ways are higher than ours. Though such events give not the slightest appearance of wisdom, love, or justice, we're told to accept them as such! (And to think some detractors accuse us of being told what to believe!) Does God really need enemies, with friends that say such things about him?

One reason people become Jehovah's Witnesses is that they don't buy into such a moral vacuum. They look, instead, to when God's permission of human rule runs out, at which time he brings about his own 'kingdom.' The Lord's prayer points to that time:

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
  (Matt 6:9-10)

The Book of Daniel points to it:

And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.  (Dan 2:44)

Revelation points to it:

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.  (Rev 21:2-3) 

Note above that they're not angels; they're men - people -  and New Jerusalem stands for God's government over all the earth, just as literal Jerusalem stood for God's government over his ancient people.

Several Old Testament verses prophetically point to it. For example, Ps 93:1

Jehovah himself has become king! Let the earth be joyful. Let the many islands rejoice

But here we run into something peculiar. Most Bible's don't say "has become," as the New World Translation does. Some do, such as Young's Literal Translation, J.B. Rotherham Emphasized, and Douay-Rheim. But most say that God "is reigning," or something similar. What's with that?

It turns out that the Hebrew verb has two tenses: perfect and imperfect. The perfect tense is used to convey action completed. Events in the past would likely be described with the perfect tense. But, oddly, future events may also be conveyed with the perfect tense, when the writer regards their fulfillment as absolutely certain. The imperfect tense, on the other hand, denotes a work in progress, an ongoing action. Also, everyone acknowledges context plays its part in determining how to translate the perfect or imperfect tense.

The verb "reign" [malakh] in Ps 93:1 is in the perfect tense. It therefore seems that malakh should be rendered as an action completed, and not "reigning," as in an ongoing process. The New World Translation, and a handful of others, has thus translated it that way. And why do most others translate it "reigning?" Apparently due to their perception of doctrinal context - if God "has become king," they reason, there must have been a time when he was not king, and they can't get their heads around that. However, Jehovah's Witnesses side with Sigmund Mowinckel, who wrote in his 1962 book Psalms in Israel’s Worship: is not a valid objection to say that Yahweh had, according to the Israelite view, always been king. The latter statement is correct enough . . . but in the cult the fact of salvation is re-experienced as a new and actual reality. Yahweh is ever anew witnessed as ‘coming’, ‘revealing himself’, and doing works of salvation on earth. The Israelite idea of God was not static but dynamic. Israel did not regard the Lord principally as sitting in calm possession and execution of his divine power, but as one who rises and seizes the power, and wields it in mighty works. And this is as a rule concretely pictured; from the ‘mythical’ side this is seen epically and dramatically: at a certain time Yahweh became king. To the Israelite way of thinking there is no contradiction between this and that he is king for ever; such a contradistinction is modern and rationalistic.

And with Charles H Spurgeon, who points out with regard to Ps 93:1 "In the verse before us it would seem as if the Lord had for a while appeared to vacate the throne, but on a sudden he puts on his regal apparel and ascends his lofty seat, while his happy people proclaim him with new joy, shouting "The Lord reigneth." Though he prefers "reigneth," probably out of convention, reading his remark makes apparent he'd have no objection to "has become."

And with  Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer, who "sees this psalm as reflecting the various pronouncements that will be voiced in the Messianic era and, therefore, the past tense is syntactically uttered in the psalm in retrospect."

Go here for some of these arguments, scroll ahead to page 67. The New World Translation agrees, not with the paper's author, Gerald Randall Kirkland, writing his Master's Thesis, but with Mowinckel and Feuer, whom he has cited.

So.....Ps 93:1 and similar verses take some time to discuss, but in the end they agree with the other verses cited. Though always king, God has granted a stay of his kingship for a time while humans try to prove their boasts of self-rule. The stay will run out soon - such is a prime import of the Jehovah's Witnesses position. In the meantime, we don't accept disasters and calamities as manifestation of God's will. They're an integral part of a rapidly decaying system of things under human domination.


Tom Irregardless and Me       No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Atheist Buses and Hellfire Buses


It was clumsy from people who aren't known for clumsiness. It didn't ring true to form, yet I couldn't put my finger on it. Early this year, the atheists slapped this inspirational message on British buses and sent them all over England:

"There probably is no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

Richard Dawkins, the grand old man of atheism, appeared himself on launch day. Did he bless the buses as they left the terminal?
Now be honest. Is not your first reaction that those atheists should 'man up?' What is this milquetoast 'probably?' Either there is or there isn't. If it's just academic musing - well, then I guess 'probably' is acceptable - but no! we're authorized to take drastic action based on this 'probably.' We're to 'stop worrying' and 'enjoy life,' something none of us would dare do if there's the mere possibility of God lurking about somewhere! And what about this statement from Dawkins himself: "...if we say 'there's definitely no God' - you can't say that...." You can't? He does exactly that in his bestselling book The God Delusion. Why this pussyfooting around?
These folks are not milquetoast and they're not equivocal. Some of them you'll think are pit bulls should you run across them on the internet. It doesn't faze them at all to declare God a centuries-old, world-wide fraud- unfit for modern consumption. So why, all of a sudden, do they go weak in the knees? 'Probably?' And why does Dawkins put a positive spin on a mealy-mouthed message he can't stand?
Awake! magazine (Nov 2009) solved the puzzle. Citing The Guardian newspaper, it states "the word 'probably' is used in order to meet the rules of Britain's Advertising Standards Authority, since it is impossible to prove that God does not exist." it makes sense. That 'probably' is legalese! It's a disclaimer! It's like those interminable American pharmaceutical ads in which happy, vibrant, fulfilled people frolic on positively ALIVE now that they don't have to pee as much thanks to consuming this or that drug, and all the while the background announcer drones on and on with his long disclaimer of truly horrible side effects users may encounter, so that we begin to say "who in their right mind would take this stuff for ailments of mere inconvenience?" Ha, but those atheists want their message out so badly that they put up with a word that scuttles all it's impact. And we won't (for now) go into the 'impossibility of proving God's non-existence,' nor the ridiculous assertion that shedding faith is the pathway to worry-free happy life.
And yet listen to the words of Ariane Sherine, who dreamed up the project, and you can begin to empathize with her, and even with the grand old man Richard Dawkins:
"This campaign started as a counter response to advertising running on London buses in June 2008 which had Bible quotes on them, for instance Jesus died for our sins, and then an URL to a website and when you visited the website it said, among other things, that all non-Christians would burn in hell for all eternity in a lake of fire, and I thought that that was really quite strong...." really is....I see her point. Is it even more offensive than 'there (probably) is no God?' You can certainly argue the point. One side says God doesn't exist, and the other says - yes, he does, and he loves nothing more than to see those 'not with the program.' tortured forever. I like the way Isaac Asimov put it: hell is "the drooling dream of a sadist" crudely affixed to an all-merciful God; if even human governments were willing to curtail cruel and unusual punishments, he wondered, why would punishment in the afterlife not be restricted to a limited term. [Wikipedia entry on Isaac Asimov] Or, take this quote attributed to Sidney Hatch (the athlete?): “A civilized society looks with horror upon the abuse and torture of children or adults. Even where capital punishment is practiced, the aim is to implement it as mercifully as possible. Are we to believe then that a holy God—our heavenly Father—is less just than the courts of men? Of course not.”

 What is truly exasperating is that the Bible emerges as the source of the hellfire teaching. Those fire and wrath people have long hijacked the book and present it as their own, so that the casual observer assumes it really does teach hell. It doesn't.
With a single exception, all instances of “hell” stem from only one of three original language words. Find the meaning of those words, and you’ve found the meaning of hell. Two of those words are Hebrew-Greek equivalents: sheol and hades. They refer to "the place of the dead." Bad people are said to go there, but so are good people. When the patriarch Jacob was told his son Joseph had died, for example, he "kept refusing to take comfort and [was] saying: “For I shall go down mourning to my son into Sheol!” Did he really expect to burn in hell someday, or did he figure on dying and going to the grave? (Gen 37:35) Or Job, who, amidst great suffering, prayed  "O that in Sheol you would conceal me, that you would keep me secret until your anger turns back" (Job 14:13) A sensible request if sheol is the grave. Not so bright, though, if it is a burning place of torture.

How I miss the good ol Catholic Douay Bible, which consistently translated 'sheol' as 'hell!' But most translations, like the King James, only sometimes translate it as 'hell' and other times, when 'hell' is clearly ridiculous, translate it 'grave.' Why not translate it 'grave' each time, if that's what it means?
Or what about this verse speaking "of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses." (Acts 2:31 KJV) Now, if there is one person whom you would not expect to have gone to hell, wouldn't it be Jesus? But he was in the grave [hades] for three days.
The third and last word translated 'hell' is gehenna. Every instance of hellfire is 'gehenna.' The term refers to the valley of Hinnom outside the walls of Jerusalem. It served as the municipal garbage dump and fires were kept burning continually to consume the refuse. Carcasses of criminals and those not thought worthy of decent burial might be tossed over the wall into gehenna below. It even became symbolic. Giving one a proper burial presupposed they were worthy of future resurrection. Heaving someone into gehenna presupposed their death would be permanent. Thus, when Jesus denounced religious hypocrites: "Serpents, offspring of vipers, how are you to flee from the judgment of Gehenna?" he was suggesting they merited no future resurrection, not that they deserved everlasting torture.
The New World Translation declines to translate the three words into English. Instead, it transliterates sheol, hades, and gehenna directly from the original language into the English. This is an invaluable aid for students in uncovering what these words actually mean. One suspects other Bibles don't do it precisely to keep hidden how shaky is their derivation of 'hell.'
The phrase 'lake of fire' occurs only once in the Bible, at Revelation chapter 20:
"And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." (Rev 20:10 KJV) One would think it painfully obvious that we're into heavy symbolism here. Literally speaking, the devil ought have a summer cottage on the lake of fire; it ought not bother him a bit! Later (vs 14) death and hades are tossed into the lake. Are they also entities that you can torture forever and ever? Or is the lake merely symbolic for permanent destruction, the "second death?"
It's a little like when you accompany someone (alas, we still have a few like this) to the door, and that one is so persistent and so argumentative that the householder finally slams the door shut, and you say "I don't blame him...what else could he have done?" So it is with these born-again hellfire buses running all over the place. You can only push atheists so far. Sooner or later they'll send out buses of their own. Listen, regarding Sherine and Dawkins, I'm not their friend, nor do I understand their evangelistic zeal for spreading atheism. The same fervor Ponce de Leon used to put into finding the fountain of life, these guys put into finding the fountain of death. No, I don't like the atheist bus campaign. But as a response to religionists threatening everyone with hellfire....well, suddenly I can empathize with them a little.


Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Translators, Qualifications, and the New World Translation

In the midst of discussing Coptic translations of the 3rd century - practically the earliest of all translations yet discovered - did you know they translate John 1:1 exactly as the New World Translation – “the Word was a god”? - one grouser has had enough. He wants to know who translated the NWT. What qualifications did they have? 


Grouser:  Just b/c I understand what you mean when you say this, doesn’t
mean I’m qualified to translate from Coptic or Greek into English.

What were the qualifications of the men who translated the NWT into English?


What in the world does that statement have to do with anything? No one’s asking you to translate from Coptic or Greek into English.

The point is that, in a language closer in time to the actual usage of Koine Greek, the translators rendered John 1:1 exactly as does the NWT today. Viewed in this light, the NWT is not "changing" John 1:1. Rather, manuscripts well after John penned his letter changed the verse, and NWT has restored it to as it should be.

But he’s done with Coptic. He wants a new topic.

What he is hoping is that I will admit we didn’t really use translators at all, but hired trained orangutans for the job. It’s a common taunt from those who can’t stand Jehovah’s Witnesses. Just who are these translators, anyway? Do they have letters trailing their name? Do they really know any language besides Pig Latin?

It’s not easy to satisfy on this point since the NWT translating committee has ever remained anonymous. Not just the NWT - everything Watchtower published is anonymous. One consequence is that people must focus on the work itself and not just who wrote it. But it’s a lot easier to do the reverse: find out who wrote it, and then figure on that basis if it’s any good or not. It's the tactic of a lazy lout. After all, examining a work takes time. Examining credentials of the author can be done in 2 seconds.

Is the New World Translation any good or not? One ought to be able to determine that without knowing the “qualifications of the translators.” Instead, qualifications become apparent through examination of the work itself. That holds true in any other aspect of life. Why should it not hold true here as well? When Mrs Sheepandgoats and I moved into our present house, we looked it over for quality. We even hired an inspector. Satisfied, we purchased it. But we don’t know who built the house, and we’ve not lost any sleep on that account. The qualifications of the builders are evident from what is built.

Shortly after the New World Translation’s release, back in 1963, the Andover Newton Quarterly wrote: “The translation of the New Testament is evidence of the presence in the movement of scholars qualified to deal intelligently with the many problems of Biblical translation.” How do they know the “scholars” are “qualified”? They examined the work itself. Does it bother them that the translators are anonymous? It doesn’t seem to. “The New Testament translation was made by a committee whose membership has never been revealed — a committee that possessed an unusual competence in Greek,” the journal wrote in 1966. They could tell the work was well done without knowing the authors, just as you can tell the earth is beautiful without knowing its Creator. But stupid and lazy persons insist they have to know the authors first. Rubbish. To insist that credentials determine a work’s value is to insist that Microsoft is a nickel-and-dime third rate outfit because Bill Gates is “unqualified” – he holds no degrees in computer science, and never completed college.

Or what about Marilee Jones, the MIT Dean of Admissions who was carted out like yesterday's trash when it was found she was “unqualified” for her job. She’d forged her credentials! Those letters and degrees she carried - all made up! Yet before she was found out, they'd sung her praises to the heavens! She was a leading expert in her field! On the other hand, the most qualified financial people in the world darn near destroyed the entire world economy. Evolutionists positively reek with qualifications, and they’ve determined there is no God at all! Not to berate qualifications, of course – God forbid! - but they are frequently used merely to screen persons, as any job-seeker knows. And to pad the education industry.


Opponants sneered at the apostles for lack of qualifications: "Now when they [qualified religious leaders of the day] beheld the outspokenness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were men unlettered and ordinary, they got to wondering,” Acts 4:13 tells us. Jesus fared no better: “Therefore the Jews fell to wondering, saying: “How does this man have a knowledge of letters, when he has not studied at the schools?" (John 7:15) Got it? Christianity’s a flop because its founder was not “qualified.”

Frankly, Watchtower, through its program, structure and dedication, is a "school" in its own right. Can one learn languages only through the world's universities? Sheesh! A two-year-old raised in a bilingual homes picks up both tongues without effort. Put him in a tri-lingual home, and he picks up three. Okay, ancient language adds a degree of complication, I admit, but still, language is just a means of communication and surely there are many avenues through which one may learn it. Besides, what do they do most there in Bethel? What are they known for? TRANSLATING! The Watchtower magazine is presently translated into 174 languages. Try to find any material of any sort so widely translated!

So, IF it turns out that NWT translators bypassed the advanced degrees of prestigious universities, that's not the big deal detractors make it out to be. Yet, even THAT can't be determined for sure. Detractors claim to know who the translators were, and have a field day with their supposed "lack of qualifications." But how you positively identify a group which has never identified itself is beyond me. And even if those guessed-at persons chaired a committee, that by no means says they personally did all the work, just as a builder might farm out various areas of expertise on the home he's building.

"Maybe there were many others," admits another sorehead. "But again, in a matter like this, what or why would they hide? Who lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl? Honestly, provide one reasonable excuse why these men should be anonymous."

What’s wrong with modesty? By remaining anonymous, they direct attention to the work (and its real author), and not themselves. “Who lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl,” my rear end! They’ve not put the work under a bowl. They’ve put themselves under it. Now, having accomplished a great work, people today are given to strutting around and basking in the praise of their peers. To forsake that shows unusual modesty. We live in a culture in which people are obsessed with personalities, and in which they focus, not so much on words said, but on who said the words. Anonymity thwarts such laziness.

Most criticism of the New World Translation arises because it does not translate certain verses in the precise words necessary to uphold the Trinity doctrine. This is extremely important to Trinity people, because the Trinity teaching derives almost all of its authority from such 'formula' verses. Many translations have rendered such verses similar to the NWT over the years, but such translations all tank because they depend on the world's commercial marketplace for distribution - and Trinitarians won't touch them with a ten foot pole. The NWT would also tank if distributed that way, no doubt, but it's distributed in an entirely unique way by dedicated Christians, outstripping anything the world’s commercial system could accomplish, and at a very nominal cost.

If you believe in the Trinity, you'll loathe the NWT and do everything possible to discredit it. But if you don't carry that baggage, and you're permitted to look at it without preconceived ideas, it speaks well for itself. In fact, Jason Beduhn, who has theological qualifications coming out of his ears, compared 9 popular translations and concluded the New World Translation is the most accurate, containing the least bias, of all of them. His 2003 book is entitled Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament. He's not hung up at all about anonymous translators. He has enough ability to look at the work itself, and not just who produced it.


Read ‘Tom Irregardless and Me.’    30% free preview

Starting with Prince, a fierce and frolicking defense of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A riotous romp through their way of life. “We have become a theatrical spectacle in the world, and to angels and to men,” the Bible verse says. That being the case, let’s give them some theater! Let’s skewer the liars who slander the Christ! Let’s pull down the house on the axis lords! Let the seed-pickers unite!




Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Scholars, Bias, and the New World Translation

If reviews of a film all rot, that tells me the movie's a stinker. If reviews gush with praise, that tells me the film's great. But if some reviewers savage a film and others praise it - the same film - what that tells me is not so much about the movie. That tells me  about the reviewers.

So it is with the New World Translation, a Bible used primarily by Jehovah's Witnesses. Scholars give mixed reviews, with extremes at both ends.

Here's a nasty one:

Finally, a word should be said about the New World Translation by the Jehovah's Witnesses. Due to the sectarian bias of the group, as well as to the lack of genuine biblical scholarship, I believe that the New World Translation is by far the worst translation in English dress. It purports to be word-for-word, and in most cases is slavishly literal to the point of being terrible English. But, ironically, whenever a sacred cow is demolished by the biblical writers themselves, the Jehovah's Witnesses twist the text and resort to an interpretive type of translation. In short, it combines the cons of both worlds, with none of the pros.                      

On the other hand:

Original renderings of the Hebrew Scriptures into the English are extremely few. It therefore gives us much pleasure to welcome the publication of the first part of the New World Translation [of the Hebrew Scriptures], Genesis to Ruth. This version has evidently made a special effort to be thoroughly readable. No one could say it is deficient in its freshness and originality. Its terminology is by no means based on that of the previous versions.

Another sorehead:

Once it is perceived that Jehovah's Witnesses are only interested in what they can make the scriptures say, and not in what the Holy Spirit has already perfectly revealed, then the careful student will reject entirely Jehovah's Witnesses and the Watchtower translation.                      

Then, again:

Edgar J. Goodspeed, translator of the Greek New Testament in An American Translation. (in a letter dated Dec. 8, 1950): "I am interested in the mission work of your people, and in its world wide scope, and much pleased with the free, frank, and vigorous translation. It exhibits a vast array of sound serious learning, as I can testify."


"The translation of the New Testament is evidence of the presence in the movement of scholars qualified to deal intelligently with the many problems of Biblical translation."                    

What we learn here has little to do with the New World Translation and everything to do with scholars. They are not gods. They are humans, with the same mix of opinion, bias and pig-headedness suffered by all the rest of us. They put their pants on as we do. They are like psychiatrists in a murder trial, where both prosecution and defense searches for one compliant to their respective side. They are like Supreme Court nominees, where the liberal President appoints one with like-minded views, and a few years later the conservative President appoints his polar opposite. You don't tremble with fear when the other side produces a scholar who doesn't agree with you. You expect that to happen. Even sheer numbers of opposing scholars don't mean much. The view currently in vogue will always produce the greater number of scholars. Humans are like that. They run in herd mentality.

Line up all scholars with similar views and their writings indeed seem impressive. Line up the scholars with opposing views, and their writing also seems formidable. But combine the two, and one is sorely tempted to equate scholarship with so many rolls of toilet paper. They squabble no less than we lesser mortals. No one's saying to ignore them, but too many people employ them the way lawyers employ psychiatrists: they decide up front what they want to believe, then they search for scholars to buttress their case.

The other thing we learn about scholars is that the ones who can't stand the New World Translation are, with very few exceptions, Trinitarians. Believe that Jesus and God are synonymous and you will loathe the New World Translation. Believe otherwise, and you will be okay with it. You may critique it on this or that point, as with any translation. But you will rank it as a legitimate and intelligent translation, with both strengths and weaknesses.

There are few redder flags one can wave before the Trinitarian bull than John 1:1. It's easy to see why. The King James Version and most popular Bibles today render the verse:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Other than the insertion at 1 John 5:7, an insertion long recognized as spurious, John 1:1 most directly states the Trinity, or at least two of the three parties to it. But the New World Translation - unforgivably in Trinitarian eyes - renders that verse:

In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.

It's not the only translation to do so, but there aren't many. However, there are any number of translations that straddle between the two poles - that is, while not translating the Word as "a god," they render it in terms of an adjective or quality. Such as:

"and the Word was divine" - The Bible—An American Translation, by J. M. P. Smith and E. J. Goodspeed, Chicago.

"so the Word was divine" - The Authentic New Testament, by Hugh J. Schonfield, Aberdeen.
"the Logos was divine - A New Testament: A New Translation (James Moffatt)
"was face to face with God" - The Centenary Translation (Helen Barrett Mongomery)
 "and godlike sort was the Logos" - Das Evangelium nach Johannes, by Johannes Schneider, Berlin.

Trinitarians grumble about these, but have evidently decided they can live with them. Not so with "a god" of the New World Translation.

Turning the tables on those who would charge the New World Translation of bias is a recent (2003) book by Jason Beduhn entitled Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament. Dr Beduhn teaches at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. He holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Illinois, an M.T.S. in New Testament and Christian Origins form Harvard Divinity School, and a Ph.D. in Comparative Study of Religions form Indiana University, Bloomington. He has a lot of letters trailing his name, I can tell you.

His book compares 9 popular English translations, viewing selected verses, and concludes that the New World Translation is the most accurate, the most free of bias! John 1:1 is among the verses he examines. He writes:

"Surprisingly, only one, the NW, adheres to the literal meaning of the Greek, and translates "a god." "Translators of the KJV, NRSV, NIV, NAB, NASB, AB, TEV and LB all approached the text at John 1:1 already believing certain things about the Word... and made sure that the translations came out in accordance with their beliefs." He also responds to those who charge the NWT translators with doctrinal bias: "It may very well be that the NW translators came to the task of translating John 1:1 with as much bias as the other translators did. It just so happens that their bias corresponds in this case to a more accurate translation of the Greek"

Search the internet and you will find furious discussion of Dr Beduhn, his book, John 1:1 and the other verses examined. Indeed, though I'm told he's active in the blogosphere, I can't find him anywhere. He is absolutely buried amidst attacks from Trinitarians, in near panic mode, desperate to undermine his credentials. Isn't his real language of expertise Pig Latin? Didn't he buy his degrees online? Doesn't he pick his nose a lot?

There is even some report that Jeopardy, the TV show, featured his book in asking what was the most accurate translation. The answer, of course, was the New World Translation. I'd be delighted to say the report's true, but I can't verify it. The mean Watchtower organization makes me go to meetings and knock on doors and read all their books and magazines, so I don't have enough time to sit at home and watch all the Jeopardy shows like I want. But frankly, I don't believe the report. Sounds too much like internet rumor to me.


Read ‘Tom Irregardless and Me.’    30% free preview

Starting with Prince, a fierce and frolicking defense of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A riotous romp through their way of life. “We have become a theatrical spectacle in the world, and to angels and to men,” the Bible verse says. That being the case, let’s give them some theater! Let’s skewer the liars who slander the Christ! Let’s pull down the house on the axis lords! Let the seed-pickers unite!


Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Snake Handling in Worship....You Can't be too Careful

Some things you don't forget.

Like that time I was doing magazine work with Tom Pearlsenswine. He was new then, and deadly serious. This was back when the magazines had no pictures on the cover - back when there was only a list of the articles within, like Craigslist. We were working with the issue about Snake Handling in Worship - that article had top billing. Now, in all fairness to Pearlsenswine, how do you offer an article about snake handling in worship?

"Sir, we are speaking with our neighbors about the alarming practice of snake handling in worship," he led off.

“I don't think we have to worry about that here," the householder quite sensibly replied.

Soberly and deliberately, Pearlsenswine answered: "You can't be too careful."

No, you can't. The article Tom offered focused on that verse in the last chapter of Mark, really the only verse you could have written such an article  from:

Furthermore, these signs will accompany those believing: By the use of my name [Jesus] they will expel demons, they will speak with tongues, and with their hands they will pick up serpents, and if they drink anything deadly it will not hurt them at all. They will lay their hands upon sick persons, and these will become well.”    Mark 16:17,18

It’s an odd verse, to say the least. You mean we have to carry snakes and Draino with us, in case anyone wants proof of discipleship? I mean - use of God's name, obedience to the Christ, proclaim God's Kingdom, love and unity among selves, no part of the world - yes, all these things we hear about as earmarks of discipleship. But snake handling? Drinking poison? It doesn't really fit the pattern, does it? You can't quite imagine Jesus saying it.

Further, the New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967) notes that "it's vocabulary and style differ so radically from the rest of the gospel, that it hardly seems possible Mark himself composed it," - that is, verses 9-20, not just verses 17-18. Of course, the King James Bible of 1611 uncritically runs all verses, but not so newer translations - translations which, counter-intuitively, are generally more accurate, since they reap the benefits of archeological progress - that is, the discovery through the years of more ancient manuscripts. And the most ancient manuscripts are without verses 9-20.

The New International Version, wishing to spare its readers boring details, inserts just before verse 9, the phrase "the most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20." That's further than most translations go. The Revised Standard Version, wishing to step upon nobody's toes, states: "Some of the most ancient authorities bring the book to a close at the end of verse 8. One authority concluded the book by adding after verse 8 the following: [text supplied]....Other authorities include the preceding passage and continue with verses 9-20. In most authorities verses 9-20 follow immediately after verse 8; a few authorities insert additional material after verse 14."

They're all "authorities!" No attempt is made to distinquish the windbags from the knowledgeable. Choose whichever you like. All roads lead to heaven. It’s the classic milquetoast take-no-stand approach.

The New World Translation is more helpful. It lists (through abbreviations - the key to which is provided in the preface) just which "authorities" (manuscripts and versions) contain the passage and which do not. If you're a student of the Bible, and not just one willing to be talked down to with drivel about "authorities," this information is crucial. You can do research. And you will find that the manuscripts not including the verses are more ancient than the ones that do. Bible translator Jerome, in the fifth century, said that "almost all the Greek codices [are] without this passage."

And yet, it's not such an obvious fraud as the more cleverly written insertion  at 1 John 5:7 that explicitly states the Trinity. That insertion appears in no manuscript before the sixth century CE. Since its only effect is to plainly state a doctrine not plainly stated anywhere else, it's hard not to conclude that it was stuck in for that purpose by some Trinitarian translator getting madder and madder in the course of his work that his favorite dogma is not really in the Bible, so he determines to slip it in himself.

Yet, if Jerome, in the fifth century, said almost all Greek codices were without the extra verses of Mark, that means that some included it. So few translations pull the verses entirely (as many do with the 'trinity' insertion); instead, they footnote it.

It’s not real clear just why extra verses would have been added to Mark, but you might get some idea through reading that last chapter. It ends very abruptly, so maybe you can picture some scribe, who likes tidy endings, figuring he might "flesh it out" a little. Maybe he thought there actually had been an ending which, somehow, got lost, so he figured he himself would rise to the occasion. You’re not really supposed to do that, but perhaps it is understandable.

Mark’s style is abrupt. There’s strict economy of words. Not chatty at all. It lends that gospel a peculiar power, even an urgency. For example:

And on that day, when evening had fallen, he said to them: “Let us cross to the other shore.” So, after they had dismissed the crowd, they took him in the boat, just as he was, and there were other boats with him. Now a great violent windstorm broke out, and the waves kept dashing into the boat, so that the boat was close to being swamped. But he was in the stern, sleeping upon a pillow. So they woke him up and said to him: “Teacher, do you not care that we are about to perish?” With that he roused himself and rebuked the wind and said to the sea: “Hush! Be quiet!” And the wind abated, and a great calm set in. So he said to them: “Why are you fainthearted? Do you not yet have any faith?” But they felt an unusual fear, and they would say to one another: “Who really is this, because even the wind and the sea obey him?”   Mark 4:37-41

Much more gripping than Luke’s account, found at Luke 8:22

Note, too, Luke’s account of a woman seeking help from Jesus:

And a woman, subject to a flow of blood for twelve years, who had not been able to get a cure from anyone, approached from behind and touched the fringe of his outer garment, and instantly her flow of blood stopped.   Luke 8:43-44


Luke, it must be pointed out, was a doctor. But Mark wasn’t, and apparently had little patience with the breed. His description of the poor woman is that "she had been put to many pains by many physicians and had spent all her resources and had not been benefited but, rather, had got worse."


Pop would approve.


So snakes are not necessary in one‘s book bag. This is very good news and makes it likelier that Indiana Jones may someday become a Witness. He does, after all, know God's name.










Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

The New International Version and the Tetragrammaton

The world’s most popular Bible translation today is The New International Version. It does not even once mention God’s distinctive name Jehovah. Edwin H Palmer, Executive Secretary for the NIV committee, was asked about that.

“Here is why we did not,” he replied. “You are right that Jehovah is a distinctive name for God and ideally we should have used it. But we put 2 1/4 million dollars into this translation and a sure way of throwing that down the drain is to translate, for example, Psalm 23 as, ‘Yahweh is my shepherd.’ Immediately, we would have translated for nothing. Nobody would have used it. Oh, maybe you and a handful [of] others. But a Christian has to be also wise and practical. We are the victims of 350 years of the King James tradition. It is far better to get two million to read it—that is how many have bought it to date—and to follow the King James [which does include the name in four places], than to have two thousand buy it and have the correct translation of Yahweh. . . . It was a hard decision, and many of our translators agree with you.”    (2nd set of brackets mine)

Who can’t empathize with this fellow? Do you want your new Bible translation to be read by everybody or by nobody? All you need do to ensure the former is remove the feature people loathe so much that its inclusion would send sales into the toilet. Yes, you must be “wise and practical.” As Jesus said, “the sons of this system of things are wiser in a practical way toward their own generation than the sons of the light are.” (Luke 16:8) So the sons of this system of things remove God’s name from their Bibles and sales go through the roof, whereas the dopey and pious sons of the light won’t compromise an inch and sell a thousand copies of theirs.

What can one say when you have to pull the author’s name from his own book in order to get anyone to read it? This might not be a big deal if the original text featured that name a half dozen times or so, but it appears in the Hebrew almost 7000 times!  [the tetragrammaton: YHWH] You don’t think that if God includes his own name 7000 times, he must consider it important, perhaps the most important aspect of the scriptures? After all, the Son’s name, Jesus, appears only 1000 times and you can just imagine the furor if some translator saw fit to take that out! And yet the sons of this system of things pull God’s name, and consider themselves “wise and practical” in doing so.

Over the years, some have pointed outwhat a blunder that is. For instance...."the most common "error" made by most translators in the last 3500 their elimination of heaven's revealed Name of the Most High, Yahweh (Jehovah)" - A. B. Traina; in the Preface of the Holy Name Bible

and    "The substitution of the word "Lord" is most unhappy; in NO WAY represents the meaning of the sacred name (Jehovah)..." - The 1872 edition of Smith's Bible Dictionary



Various sons of the light through the years have produced some translations that consistently translate the tetragrammaton as “Jehovah:”  such as the American Standard Bible of 1901, or the Bible in Living English (Stephen Byington - 1972), or the Holy Name Bible (1963). Have you heard of any of them? True to Mr. Palmer’s prophesy, they have all slipped into obscurity. Alas, there would appear to be no way to highlight the name of the Bible’s author!

But there is a way, and the sons of the light have proved themselves less dopey than they may at first appear. The key is to dispense with commercial distribution channels and not try to run Christianity as a popularity contest. There is one translation today that both faithfully publishes the divine name Jehovah and enjoys widespread circulation: the New World Translation. It is both translated, published, and distributed by faithful servants of Jehovah. Jehovah’s Witnesses are organized as a separate Bible society in no way beholden to the commercial interests Dr. Palmer felt held hostage to. The translators were free to focus on accurate translating, unconcerned with any popular or commercial verdict, feeling no need to come up with familiar and favored renderings lest money-conscious executives turn thumbs down.

It’s master text in Greek is Westcott and Hort, the same as the Revised Standard Version (1946), the Emphasized Bible (1902), An American Translation (1923) and others…..and in Hebrew, the Masoretic Text, same as most versions. Again, it is by no means the first Bible ever to incorporate God’s name throughout. Many others have done so. It is merely the first such Bible to receive widespread distribution. It’s success lies in the fact that distribution depends upon the efforts of dedicated Christians, and not upon the world’s commercial interests.

If the churches in general reject use of God’s name, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not as put out about it as one might expect. Instead, they have suggested [strongly] that the situation is of God’s doing:

God’s name Jehovah is hated so badly that the clergy of Christendom…. have denied it as being the Creator’s name, have removed it from their modern translations of the Bible, have said it is not the name of the God of Christians and thereby have left Jehovah’s witnesses alone to bear the distinguished divine Name. Little do they know that this is a maneuvering of God, for he respects his sacred name, and has arranged it so that only those devoted to him may bear it.              Watchtower 1966, pg 634


The parable giving rise to the expressions sons of this system of things and sons of the light is an odd one. Several of Jesus’ illustrations are downright quirky…..not at all the syrupy drivel you get at church…and the reader isn’t entirely sure who to root for:

“A certain man was rich and he had a steward, and this one was accused to him as handling his goods wastefully. So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Hand in the account of your stewardship, for you can no longer manage the house.’ Then the steward said to himself, ‘What am I to do, seeing that my master will take the stewardship away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, I am ashamed to beg. Ah! I know what I shall do, so that, when I am put out of the stewardship, people will receive me into their homes.’ And calling to him each one of the debtors of his master he proceeded to say to the first, ‘How much are you owing my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred bath measures of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your written agreement back and sit down and quickly write fifty.’ Next, he said to another one, ‘Now you, how much are you owing?’ He said, ‘A hundred cor measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your written agreement back and write eighty.’ And his master commended the steward, though unrighteous, because he acted with practical wisdom; for the sons of this system of things are wiser in a practical way toward their own generation than the sons of the light are.     Luke 16:2-8

Ain't that the truth.


Tom Irregardless and Me       No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Turning the Hose on Hell

To swelling crowds the shiek rails against “the traitor Souleiman Ghali” and called for jihad....holy war....against Israel and U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. He works the crowds to fever pitch. "Our killed ones are in paradise, and their killed ones are in hell!"

How come the really mean groups always believe in hell?

Is it that hell appeals to mean people? Isaac Asimov called hell "the drooling dream of a sadist" If unlimited retribution for limited wrongs [80-90 years at most, and that assumes you were an unmitiaged louse through and through] strikes a warm and fuzzy chord…..well, hell is your doctrine.

Or is it that the hell teaching makes people mean? After all, if God’s going to fry your enemy forever, why….what objection could there possibly be to getting a few licks in yourself?

Either way, there could be no finer a service to humanity than to put out the fire. Which is exactly what Charles Taze Russell did, Jehovah's Witnesses founder. In his lifetime he was known as the man who “turned the hose on hell and put out the fire.” Not that big of a deal now when only zealots take hell seriously, but a huge deal in the late 19th - early 20th century, when general society thought it axiomatic. Jehovah's Witnesses have never bought into the hell doctrine.

Putting out the fire is not so hard as one might imagine, at least from the Bible’s perspective. With a single exception, all instances of “hell” stem from only one of three original language words. Find the meaning of those words, and you’ve found the meaning of hell. Easier still, two of those words mean the same thing: the Hebrew “sheol” [Old Testament] is rendered into the Greek as “hades.” [New Testament]

For example, this scripture in the Old Testament [Hebrew]: “For you will not leave my soul in Sheol; you will not allow your loyal one to see the pit.”    (Ps 16:10)    is quoted this way in the New Testament [Greek]: “…because you will not leave my soul in Hades, neither will you allow your loyal one to see corruption.”    Acts 2:27

Both words simply mean the grave. Not the individual grave where this or that individual is buried, but the common grave that is waiting for all of us. There’s no distinction between good and bad…..all end up in sheol, or hades:

All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol, the place to which you are going   Eccl 9:10

This leaves only the third word: gehenna. All instances of hellfire stem from gehenna.

“And if ever your hand makes you stumble, cut it off; it is finer for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go off into gehenna, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot makes you stumble, cut it off; it is finer for you to enter into life lame than with two feet to be pitched into gehenna. And if your eye makes you stumble, throw it away; it is finer for you to enter one-eyed into the kingdom of God than with two eyes to be pitched into gehenna, where their maggot does not die and the fire is not put out.”       Mark 9:43-48

That doesn’t sound pleasant at all, does it? Still, it’s not because gehenna was a place of eternal torment. In fact, it was a garbage dump - in the valley surrounding Jerusalem. Fires were kept burning always. Worms crawled through the crud. Its history was more sordid still. It had once, centuries ago, been the location of child sacrifice:

And he [Ahaz] himself made sacrificial smoke in the valley of the son of Hinnom [Hebrew term, translated into Greek as gehenna] and proceeded to burn up his sons in the fire, according to the detestable things of the nations that Jehovah had driven out from before the sons of Israel.     2 Chron 28:3

In time, Jesus used gehenna...everyone knew what it was on account of garbage day.... as a symbol for persons so despicable that they might not merit a resurrection. Just heave their dead carcass into gehenna!

Three words…..sheol, hades, gehenna....and not one of them means eternal torture! Yet these are the three words which Bible translators render as “hell.” Some transations do so at every single instance. More frequently, they pick and choose, sometimes rendering the word hell, sometimes grave, sometimes death, pit, or what-have-you.   The New World Translation makes matters simple. Each time "sheol" occurs, NWT renders it sheol. Each time "hades" occurs, NWT renders it hades. "Gehenna" likewise transliterates to gehenna. This methodis so intrinsically honest one wonders why it is not more widespread. It makes hell easy to track, and when you do so, the fire promptly goes out!

To be sure, there are a few backeddies, fakes, fades, asterisks, and addendums, but nothing that changes the big picture, especially if you know not to take obvious metaphors literally.



More here and here (second part)


Tom Irregardless and Me           No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

The Divine Name and the Old Testament

When you are translating your Old Testament from the original Hebrew to English, it's perfectly acceptable to render the Divine Name as "Jehovah." Nobody who knows anything will give you any grief over this. All you have to do is translate the four-consonant tetragrammaton, and there it is, over 6000 times, in the original writings. You don't think if someone puts their name in a document 6000 times that they want it known?

Even translations that decline to render the name as a name do so for reasons philosophical, not technical. They simply don't want to do it. So they usually render the tetragrammaton as (the title, not name) LORD, in all caps to distinguish it from the actual word Lord. It can make for odd reading, such as at Ps 110:1.

The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool?  RVS

Who is speaking to whom? Obviously, there's a difference in the two original language terms rendered Lord.

It's a bit clunky, too, when context indicates a name:

Let then know that thou alone, whose name is the LORD, art the Most High over all the earth.    Ps 83:18

Hi, my name's "the LORD." Doesn't that just roll off the tongue? Or take those ancient Israelites in Charlton Heston's "The Ten Commandments." There they are whining and crying in the movie's first half: they don't even know their God's name. Even the Egyptians taunt them about this. Later on, they do know: it's "the LORD." Everybody's happy.

Translations that pull the name often do so without a trace, and you have to reason on Ps 110:1 (above) to show there is a difference in the original language. Other translations pull it in all but a few places. Thus, the King James Version leaves the name intact in four locations, Ps 83:18 being one of these. Still other translations pull it entirely, but explain why in their prefaces. The Revised Standard Version (RSV) is one of these:

"For two reasons the [translation] Committee has returned to the more familiar usage of the King James Version [rendering YHWH as LORD]: (1) the word "Jehovah" does not accurately represent any form of the Name ever used in Hebrew; and (2) the use of any proper name for the one and only God, as though there were other gods from whom He had to be distinguished, was discontinued in Judaism before the Christian era and is entirely inappropriate for the universal faith of the Christian Church."

Note the philosophical, not technical, basis. Neither argument holds water.

1. Okay, okay, so "Jehovah" is not the Hebrew pronunciation. Neither is Jesus, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, indeed, most names from the OT. We all know names change when we cross languages. In Ecuador, they call me "Tomas." You think I don't answer? If you want to be so picky, then render the name "Yahweh." We could live with that. But removing the name entirely in order to slap in a title betrays a callous attitude toward the Book's author.

2. It is? Inappropriate? What about 1 Cor. 8:5?

For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.    (KJV)

We've all experienced cases of mistaken identity. We speak with someone of a name we both know, yet the attributes don't line up. We soon realize we're speaking of two different persons who share a common name. It's that way with "God." The God who would torture people forever and ever in hellfire is entirely different from our God [Jehovah] who would never dream of such a thing. (Jer 2:35)

You're safe, therefore, putting "Jehovah" in the Old Testament. You ought to do it, in fact, rather than presume to hide his name. Putting it in the New Testament is another matter. It's a move readily justified, yet it is bolder, not without controversy. A future post will deal with the subject.


Tom Irregardless and Me         No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Textual Criticism and the Bible

"If comparative trivialities such as changes of order, the insertion or omission of the article with proper names, and the like are set aside, the works in our opinion still subject to doubt can hardly mount to more than a thousandth part of the whole New Testament."

Then too, one must remember that Jehovah's Witnesses put great stock in the jig-saw puzzle analogy.

Even those who flatly reject them rarely attempt to point out any inconsistencies. Some mistake the certainty Jehovah's Witnesses project for pride. They should not. It's nothing haughty if the guy with the phone book claims he can find every number in the city.It may comprise half their rationale for accepting the beliefs they do. And why not? If your car runs, you don't spend as much time under the hood as your neighbor whose car doesn't run. Your car does. The individual components can't be all that defective. So JW beliefs form a network that give satisfying, consistent and coherent explanations for the important questions of our day.

So that guy next door owns an automobile of which each component is exquisitely crafted by award winning engineers, graduates of the finest engineering schools. He looks askance at that mongrel car of yours - who knows where its component parts have been? Yet for all his high pretensions, his car doesn't run. Yours does. Incredibly, this fact does not humble him. He continues to labor on his respectable yet inoperative car and loudly denounces you as a naive buffoon.

Or, take that Neil Young song which they play all the time up here: When God Made Me. Okay, so Neil Young has paid his dues and earned his place in music. I like his songs as well as anyone. But he's no theologian. He plaintively whines spiritual questions that any ten year old with Bible knowledge can answer. Yet nobody labels the lyrics as lacking depth. To the contrary, they hail him as a great spiritual seeker, a visionary on the noble quest to learn all, and so forth. Noble, perhaps. But if you've spent tons of time telling others Bible answers to questions which they have, only to have many roll their eyes at your far-too-unsophisticated message, "noble" isn't the first adjective that comes to mind.

They caught Sheepandgoats in a rash statement. He had insisted that there are no contradictions in the Bible. So he had to back off a bit.

Of course there are contradictions in the Bible, at least as it has come down to us. There are contradictions in every aspect of life. The important question is - how significant are they?

"We do not even have a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of the original." It's true enough. But it's equally true with all ancient writings....with any ancient historian, with any ancient philosopher. With all of them we have not even a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of the original. Yet are we ever admonished to discount these writings for fear that scanty manuscripts make them worthless? No. Only the Bible. Go figure. I suspect Brandon nailed it. People don't like the Bible because it roundly condemns much of what society embraces. They don't like it's conclusions. They don't like the responsibilities it places upon us. Or as James puts it:

Therefore, if one knows how to do what is right and yet does not do it, it is a sin for him. Jas 4:17

Better not to know it. Better to shoot down the source.

I might not feel this way if all ancient writings were looked at askance. But they're not. Only the Bible.

Grounds for textual criticism of the Bible are not comparable to these other secular writings. They are far superior. For example, the gap between the original writings of Thucydides and the oldest extant manuscript of his work is 1300 years. For Herodotus' writings it is 1400 years. for Tacitus, 800, Pliny: 750. Josephus, 1000. With the New Testament, however, the gap shrinks to 200 years, sometimes less. The smaller the gap, of course, the less room for errors to creep in.

Moreover, the New Testament was the source material for evangelizing. For that reason, copies increased exponentially, a fact which ensures accurate preservation. Today, there are over 4000 extant manuscripts covering portions of the NT, a number astronomically greater than the writings of other ancients. It is therefore not difficult to reconstruct the original. If you have ten copies of an original, of which nine are identical and one is different, which one do you think contains the copyist's error? That's how they ferreted out the spurious verse at 1 John 5:7 which the Trinitarians tried to slip in.

On the other hand, ancient secular writings were copied much more sparingly. Should a copyist make an error on, say, Aristotle, we're sunk. There's not the plethora of competing copies with which to compare. Still, nobody suggests these writings are so unfit that they best belong in the dumpster, as they do the Bible.

Are there errors in the Bible manuscripts? Yes, there are many thousands of them. Yet they are virtually all insignificant, a mispelling here, transposition of words or letters there, insertion or deletion of an article in another place. Note, for example, the viewpoint of Westcott and Hort, who produced the Greek master text which the most recognizable modern New Testament translations use as source material:

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Hezekiah, Rabshakeh, and Sennacherib

Now it came to pass in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, that Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah, and took them. And the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem unto king Hezekiah with a great army. And he stood by the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field. Then came forth unto him Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, the son of Asaph, the recorder.

And Rabshakeh said unto them, Say ye now to Hezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou trustest? I say, thy counsel and strength for the war are but vain words: now on whom dost thou trust, that thou hast rebelled against me?

Behold, thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed, even upon Egypt, whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust on him. But if thou say unto me, We trust in Jehovah our God: is not that he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and hath said to Judah and to Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar? Now therefore, I pray thee, give pledges to my master the king of Assyria, and I will give thee two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them. How then canst thou turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master's servants, and put thy trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? And am I now come up without Jehovah against this land to destroy it? Jehovah said unto me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.

Then said Eliakim and Shebna and Joah unto Rabshakeh, Speak, I pray thee, unto thy servants in the Syrian language; for we understand it: and speak not to us in the Jews' language, in the ears of the people that are on the wall. But Rabshakeh said, Hath my master sent me to thy master, and to thee, to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men that sit upon the wall, to eat their own dung, and to drink their own water with you?

Then Rabshakeh stood, and cried with a loud voice in the Jews' language, and said, Hear ye the words of the great king, the king of Assyria. Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you; for he will not be able to deliver you: neither let Hezekiah make you trust in Jehovah, saying, Jehovah will surely deliver us; this city shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make your peace with me, and come out to me; and eat ye every one of his vine, and every one of his fig-tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his own cistern; until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards. Beware lest Hezekiah persuade you, saying, Jehovah will deliver us. Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim? and have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who are they among all the gods of these countries, that have delivered their country out of my hand, that Jehovah should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?

But they held their peace, and answered him not a word; for the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not. Then came Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, that was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, the son of Asaph, the recorder, to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rabshakeh. And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of Jehovah.

And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, unto Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz. And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of contumely; for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth. It may be Jehovah thy God will hear the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to defy the living God, and will rebuke the words which Jehovah thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left. So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah.

And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say to your master, Thus saith Jehovah, Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard, wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Behold, I will put a spirit in him, and he shall hear tidings, and shall return unto his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land. So Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah; for he had heard that he was departed from Lachish. And he heard say concerning Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, He is come out to fight against thee.

And when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, Thus shall ye speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying, Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, by destroying them utterly: and shalt thou be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them, which my fathers have destroyed, Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden that were in Telassar? Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arpad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, of Hena, and Ivvah?

And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up unto the house of Jehovah, and spread it before Jehovah. And Hezekiah prayed unto Jehovah, saying, O Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, that sittest above the cherubim, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth. Incline thine ear, O Jehovah, and hear; open thine eyes, O Jehovah, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, who hath sent to defy the living God. Of a truth, Jehovah, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the countries, and their land, and have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone; therefore they have destroyed them. Now therefore, O Jehovah our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art Jehovah, even thou only.

Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent unto Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, Whereas thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria, this is the word which Jehovah hath spoken concerning him: The virgin daughter of Zion hath despised thee and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee. Whom hast thou defied and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel. By thy servants hast thou defied the Lord, and hast said, With the multitude of my chariots am I come up to the height of the mountains, to the innermost parts of Lebanon; and I will cut down the tall cedars thereof, and the choice fir-trees thereof; and I will enter into its farthest height, the forest of its fruitful field; I have digged and drunk water, and with the sole of my feet will I dry up all the rivers of Egypt. Hast thou not heard how I have done it long ago, and formed it of ancient times? now have I brought it to pass, that it should be thine to lay waste fortified cities into ruinous heaps. Therefore their inhabitants were of small power, they were dismayed and confounded; they were as the grass of the field, and as the green herb, as the grass on the housetops, and as a field of grain before it is grown up.

But I know thy sitting down, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy raging against me. Because of thy raging against me, and because thine arrogancy is come up into mine ears, therefore will I put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest. And this shall be the sign unto thee: ye shall eat this year that which groweth of itself, and in the second year that which springeth of the same; and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit thereof. And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward. For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and out of mount Zion they that shall escape. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts will perform this.

Therefore thus saith Jehovah concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come unto this city, nor shoot an arrow there, neither shall he come before it with shield, nor cast up a mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and he shall not come unto this city, saith Jehovah. For I will defend this city to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake.

And the angel of Jehovah went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand; and when men arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh. And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esar-haddon his son reigned in his stead.

Isaiah 36 & 37   American Standard Version

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